Monday, April 28, 2014

Home Schooling FAQ

A lot has been on my mind/heart lately. With Liam being 2 now, school is quickly approaching for the little guy. When we moved here in 2013, a lot of it had to do with the school system, for both academics and athletics, as well as the family community. We will outgrow this house in about 5 years and while we may move to Southern Indianapolis (mostly because there is more to do), we will still search for a good school system.

To Hubby & I, education is the absolute most important thing we want to instill in Liam. (Other than making him an outstanding member of society.) It's been evident since Liam was a small baby that he has been behind developmentally. He goes at his own pace, which is frequent, but still slower than most children. We first thought he may have autism. That was ruled out within a couple of months. Now that he is a toddler, we are seeing more and more signs that he may have ADHD. It's really hard to tell since most of the characteristics are those of a toddler and someone with ADHD are extremely similar. Some things stick out though. However, some things may be more personality and some may be more geared towards that. I DO NOT want to be that parent that assumes since a child acts out that he has ADHD or since he is hyper active that he has it either, but I just want to make sure I can help him in the most natural ways so give him the best start and future possible. I do not want him on medication at any point. I'd rather embrace who he is, even though he is not seen like everyone else or to everyone's standards.

Before I answer some Q&A's, I just want to be sure to mention, I am a HUGE fan of the public education system. I think it is wonderful, but it is not for everyone!

Why are you considering home school?
-There are about a hundred reasons why I have considered it. Whether Liam has any type of behavioral or developmental disorder or delay, I want to see him strive. I was working my way to being an elementary teacher. I was in class with current educators and heard things that made my heart hurt. Here are my top five reasons:

  1. If I'm going to be an educator, why not educate my own children! I feel like as a mom, It is my job to raise him to be exactly who he is and the type of person I believe will make him the best he can be. If he's gone for 7-8 hours a day, my mere two or three will not be as great of an impact. 
  2. Pubic schools have higher teacher:student ratios. Public schools are cutting teachers and other faculty very quickly. Budgets are being cut, and the number of students is increasing per teacher. When I student taught, there was 30 children in one kindergarten class, 3 of them had some type of special need. There was the teacher, me, and an instructional assistant. Between all that, it was hard to balance helping the children who weren't getting and making sure everyone was on task and utilizing time wisely. Now imagine if there was just the one teacher (which it is most of the day!) Then think about all the little things that can fill up your day. Breakfast (this school required it), lunch, recess, bathroom breaks, unexpected events (a student got sick in the classroom), and all the transitions between activities. Now try to do all the school work needed to comply with state standards in that short time each day. 
  3. Working at your own pace. As I said, Liam has been behind developmentally since he was born 5 weeks early. Teachers have to move at a quick pace to get everything done in one day. That leaves no room for a student who is too far ahead or too far behind. I also think about how I was ahead in kindergarten. I would have to sit in a desk by myself learning things that the other kids weren't ready for. I will be able to work with my children's pace. If they get it, move on, if not, I have time to work through it.
  4. Setting my own schedule. What if its a snow day for public school? Home schoolers won't have to make up extra days! What if it's just one of those crazy days? We can take a break whenever! Family vacation during off peak? No problem! See where I'm going here? Most home schoolers don't have summer break, which is why most graduate 2-3 years sooner than most public school children.
  5. Spending time with my kids. Some people are going to probably roll their eyes at this one. However, I always found it odd that parents were all about staying home with their kids, then as soon as their school age, it's "see ya in 8 hours!" If Liam goes to school from 8-3 and I work from 9-5, and he goes to bed between 7-9, that leaves a mere 4-5 hours a day, tops. Now, add in the time it takes to get to or from home/school, plus making dinner, any after school activities, homework, etc. How much does that leave? NOT MUCH! I'd much rather be the person they spend a majority of their day with and help them to be the best they can be in the process!

What type of home school will you be doing?
-We plan to do secular homeschooling. The program/curriculum we will use is Evangelical Christian based, but we will skip the Bible portion, and once he gets to more serious subjects (evolution vs creationism) we will choose more secular resources for that. We are Christians, but we also want to prepare him for things he will need for college. We feel like he should know everything, as opposed to just one viewpoint. We hope he will want to participate in youth group and other church activities, but we also want him to form his own beliefs and opinions.

He'll be weird...
-Honestly, this was my take on home schooled children as well. I knew several that were home schooled and then moved into public schools in high school. However, the ones I knew were home schooled non-secular. Basically, they were "weird" because they didn't know about the latest movies, music, fashion trends, etc. A majority also did not partake in most things teens do such as drinking, sex, drugs, etc. Therefore, they were not part of the "social norm" and were deemed weird. They were sheltered. I do not plan on sheltering him what so ever. He will have restrictions, just like he would if he went to public school.  My husband and I did some very inappropriate things in high school, during school hours, and if he's at home that will be avoided. Not things he can learn and grow from, but things that he has no business doing, and with correct supervision can be avoided.

He won't have any friends...
Home schooling is not what it used to be. Living in the city, I have already found a ton of home school social groups. He will also do activities, ones that he chooses, but at least activities outside the home. They also now have online programs where home schooled children can participate in after-school activities and even sports! Also, most home schooled children are able to interact with adults and children of all ages better than those that attend school with children their own age. If you have ever met Liam, you know there is no way he can not be social!

I am very excited to be starting this journey with my family. As with anything, there will be those that disagree or even poke fun at our choice. As I said, I was the same way before I educated myself on homeschooling. More and more secular home schoolers are popping up! I am actually a minority, in a small minority (think about that for a second).  We believe this will greatly benefit our child, as well as our family. My thing is, if you can do it, do it! I will also be homeschooling for two years before he is actually required to go to school, so I can always send him to public school if I need to!

Just thought I'd answer a few questions I've received and mention comments I've been hearing. I am in not way saying there is anything wrong with parents that choose or have to send their children to public schools! I just feel, for my son, this is the best way he can learn and grow! Happy day frugal friends!

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Friday, April 25, 2014

One of those days...

While I should be editing my latest sessions or even blogging about our recent bathroom remodel for under $100, I can't help but feel a rush of emotions lately.

April 2014. I was sure I would be holding a precious baby by April 2014.

It was July. Liam was 16 months old. We had been in our new home almost a month. Kyle & I had been getting closer to trying for baby #2. After all, Liam was created about 3 weeks into our first home. It seemed so similar in the best and worst ways. I remembered back to what it felt like to be pregnant. The financial, emotional, and physical stress of creating a life within me. I remember wanting a baby, but being too scared to actually try for one, then boom, before I knew it, my life changed with one dollar store test on July 29, 2011. Now it was July again, two years later. It took barely a month the first time. "It will probably take a few months, tops." I carelessly thought.

After months and months of charting, irregular cycles, and financial strain, I started to give up. This must be God telling me to wait. So I quit trying so hard..somewhat. I couldn't help but check my Fertility Friend App with the hopes our recent endeavor had resulted in a precious miracle. Pregnancy test after pregnancy test; cycle after cycle; nothing. My heart couldn't take it.

In these past 9 months of trying, I've grown closer to God, and then fell through the cracks again, confused and angry why He wouldn't give me a baby. Wasn't I worthy? Am I not a good mom? Feeding Liam healthy, always being a car seat Nazi, reading article after article about how to parent, and always giving that strawberry blonde head a kiss every night before I went to sleep. What was I doing wrong?

The more rooms we redecorate, the more real it becomes we're not working on a nursery. Liam is growing and needing less and less of essentials in the baby aisle at stores. I can't help but be envious of the moms who dread having to stop by that aisle for just about everything during their weekly outings.

I can only think about all the things I would do differently this time. All the things I would do better.

I know I seem selfish to some. To those who can't have a child naturally, who have lost a child, or people who may never get the chance to be a parent. I have a precious, smiley two-year-old who brightens up my day, everyday.

Infertility and loss affects you in more ways than you can ever imagine. It affects your mental, emotional, and physical health. It affects your relationship with your spouse. It also affects your relationships with others.

I can't tell you how many times in these past 9 months I have felt jealous or even angry that others were getting pregnant carelessly or easily, how I once had.

I'd like to tell you I'm at the point where I have come to terms with what my future holds, baby or not. I'm not there yet. I'm not sure I ever will be. It took my mom 7 years to have me, and 10 years for my sister to have my nephew. Even if I stop "trying", the older Liam and I get, I feel like I will always hold out hope.

I know most people try for years and years, and its only been 9 months for us, but most of the moms who were trying around the time we started are giving birth now or soon, and it reminds me....I thought I'd have a precious baby in my arms by April 2014.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Liam's 2nd Birthday Party

Ah yes, its been almost two weeks since our little Peanut boy has turned 2, and as always, I am just now getting to blogging about it! 

Very excited about his Dr kit
This year, I was less stressed about throwing his party. I had done it before and was determined to spend half of what I did last year. (which was WAY too much). That also included Peanut's gifts. As most of you know, we view Christmas as a holiday about Jesus and not just about gifts. So he only gets a few small things. He also doesn't get much throughout the year. Let's be honest..he still has some unopened gifts from his birthday last year. However; his birthday, is all about him! That doesn't mean we have to break the bank though! The ladies at church and his babysitter were telling us how much he loved playing with the kitchens. So, we made that our goal to get him that as his "big" gift. We also found a couple of other small things he had really wanted or we knew he would like. The search began. I found several items online, but $50 for a kitchen wasn't doing it for me. 

I had looked everywhere. My last hope. A Once Upon a Child about 25 minutes away. I went in, and there she was. It was in great condition. I looked at the price tag. I looked again. And was $8.50. I've never grabbed anything up so fast in my life! On my way to the register, I saw some DVDs. I am always looking for Mickey DVDs for the little guy. There was one for $6.50. Not bottom dollar, but better than a $15 price tag for a new one. At our local Once Upon a Child, I found a Mickey set. I had found one at Walmart he was always eyeing that was around $20. This one had a ton more included and retailed for $60. I got it for $20. The best part..everything was unopened! The only thing we paid for new was the Dr. kit and lambie. He LOVES Doc McStuffins. When I got the lambie for the little girl I babysit, he was always stealing it and upset when she took it home, so I got him one. He loves using his dr kit, and even helped his dr. at his appointment. She got a kick out of him knowing what everything was for! Kyle grabbed some balloons from dollar tree for him to wake up to. He LOVED them. (the simple things in life). He also got to pick out some PJs from walmart. They were $6 and he rarely gets clothes that aren't used, so its nice to do sometimes. (& yes, we all wear used clothing, not just him!)

He also had some birthday waffles with sprinkles!! 

As many of you know, I enjoy am obsessed with party planning. At the risk of sounding like a psycho, I have already started planning next years.....anywho.. with every birthday, we make an effort to do something as a family for his birthday, and then have his party that weekend. This year, his birthday was on a Friday, so we held his party the next day.

For his birthday, we headed to the aquarium. He was about 4 hours from being 2 technically, so I wasn't lying when he still got in for free... =/ We also stopped by Jungle Jims. It is pretty neat, and got a great deal on organic bananas ;] We also went to Cici's for lunch. All you can eat pizza for about $15, and Peanut ate for free. 

Yes, he basically kissed everything at the aquarium (well, the glass mostly...)
Now to his party..the big reveal! Liam has loved Mickey since he was about 2 months old. It also helps his mom loves is obsessed with Disney. Although Mickey parties are a bit overdone, I knew he would like it, and also knew it would be fun to put together. Here are his invitations. I made them myself using photoshop and also had a pre-party photo shoot with him. I had a few different pieces I found on etsy for inspiration (1) (2).

I basically did a mirror image for the thank you cards and used a different picture from our shoot. I used word play to make it its own.

Now, if you remember last year's party..the Toy Story party I spent way too much money on...I pretty much tried to buy everything in colors only, the cheapest route, or DIY. I think the party turned out pretty great!

Here's the thing with the balloons. I think they really add something to the party, but last year spent WAY too much. This year, I contemplated buying a helium tank and buying my own balloons vs ordering some from party city. The big Mickey comes from this set. Its $16 and the helium is included. I actually picked them up the night before the party, and they were still going strong 3 days post party, and I ended up popping them since the cat wouldn't leave them alone. The happy birthday balloon and the small Mickey are from the Dollar Tree (the ones we got for him to wake up to). Yes, that does mean they were just a $1 each! Helium and ribbon included! The balloons on the highchair were from a pack of about 25 balloons I found at the dollar tree. All in all, I spent a little less than $20. That's how much the helium tank was alone!

Bless my sweet hubby who iced the cupcakes. Not too impressive, but he sure is helpful!
I REALLY wanted a cupcake stand, but I didn't want to pay $8 for something that I was only going to use this once. If I had bought a neutral one, my attempt at saving it would have ended up in me getting it out next year only to find it trashed. So I found this awesome tutorial! It involves cardboard, hot glue, and soup cans! I also got the cupcake toppers from here and just edited where it said "Celebrate" to "Liam" and "Is 2". The sad part was, they didn't really fit with the topper and being on the stand, so I made a ton and didn't even use half! I printed them out, cut them, and hot glued them to a cut Popsicle stick. The "2" Candles were from the dollar tree.

I found the cupcake liners in the party colors at walmart. I got 75 for $1.50. I used the extras to hold our goldfish. I worried a box or two of goldfish wouldn't be enough, so I bought a big box at Sam's Club for about $9. Guess what? I still have two huge bags of goldfish to go through now... =/ 

You have probably seen this idea floating around pinterest. I couldn't justify spending $20 or more on a veggie tray to feed everyone, especially since people usually only eat the celery and carrots. I got the clear cups at Dollar Tree. They come in 10 packs. I price matched the ranch dip for $1, the organic baby carrots for $1 a bag, and the celery was around $1.10 I believe. I got 3 of each. I had a ton of carrots left. Everyone loved this idea! & It saved me a ton of money on veggies!

Something else I didn't get a picture of, was the watermelon bites =[ I have a Mickey cookie cuter I got online awhile ago for about $0.75. I sliced the watermelon and used the cookie cutter to make Mickey shaped watermelon bites. They were a big hit, but I had them in the fridge when I was taking pictures =/

I had found the idea for "Minnie's Bowtie Pasta". The problem was, I had never really made Italian pasta salad that didn't come out of a box. My late brother-in-law used to make the best pasta salad for holidays and events. Since he passed, my sister has been making it. She was nice enough to pass it to me for the party, but it's a bit of a secret, so I'm not going to share. You can google a lot of different ones though. This one was a big hit!

I price matched the chips for $2 a bag. We just had original wavy and BBQ. I also price matched the dip for $1. I got the little cups at Dollar Tree. (Are you seeing a theme here??) Again, everyone enjoyed just grabbing and rolling right along. 

The cups were from the dollar tree, just regular cups that happened to go along with the color theme. I got the Hugs juices from Sam's club. Again, bought way too much and have a ton in my fridge. I spent about $8. Could have gotten away with a pack of juice boxes. (oh well, at least its yummy). I also made the water bottle labels and hot glued them around the bottles. We also had a variety of soda. I bought about 6 bottles and price matched them for $1 each!

What's a Mickey party without hot dogs? I price matched the hot dogs for $0.99 and the buns for $0.89. I got about 9 of each so that everyone could have about 1.5. I took a large pot and put about two packages in at a time to cook them. Then, I put them in the crock-pot on warm and they were delicious! I had a couple packs left over. I also served them with relish, mustard, and ketchup. I just used my own condiments from home and still have plenty left. We also put them in a muffin tin for easy serving, but I forgot to take a picture. 

I got the large dinner plates from dollar tree. There were 16 in a pack I believe. I also got small yellow dessert plates, and these red polka dot napkins from dollar general. They also came in packs of 16. The utensils were from dollar tree. I got 3 different packs (red, yellow, and black). They had forks, knives, and spoons, with 48 in each pack. I didn't use a great deal of these and will be using them for our next party!

If you remember from last year, I used this same holder for our utensils. It is an old formula canister I washed out and plan to use it for every party. I made the wrap on photoshop, and honestly just hot glued it on top of the Toy Story one from last year.

As I did last year, I used this table as my main table. It's in the back or the room, but its really the first thing you see. This year, it had Mickey toys on display, as well as a book for everyone to sign (last year we did a time capsule), and pictures of Liam from his 2nd birthday shoot. Remember that balloon bouquet from party city? Those are the other pieces of it. I also saved a few dollars by just having them clip the balloons and bought my balloon weights at dollar tree and tied them myself. 

Here is what we did as a "guestbook" for this party. I got the idea from here. I found this book at our local Once Upon a Child for about $3. It just so happened to be Mickey Clubhouse theme which is what the party was instead of just a random Mickey book. Friends and family loved writing on the pages and now when we look at the book there are all kinds of wonderful memories and thoughtful messages for him!

I will just be honest. Last year I spent way too much on goody bags that I forgot to pass out. Not to mention, most of the stuff was not age-appropriate and even a tad dangerous. This year, I bought these red bags from dollar tree. They came with 10 in a pack. Then I bought Mickey crayons, also from dollar tree, which came 3 in a pack. I printed off coloring pages and included those in there. I found suckers on clearance from dollar general which went in. I think a huge bag was like $2. Then, at Babies R Us, I found organic puffs. They had about 6 in a pack, and the bags are HUGE! Each bag was $2.50. I think I included one more Mickey item from dollar tree in there, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was.. Nothing fancy. & Since most of them are still too little for games, I passed them out so they could color and not just be sitting around. 

I got this banner from here. Again, I just photoshopped it into saying "Happy Birthday Liam" instead of "celebrate". I hole punched each corner and used left over ribbon to string it together. This is obviously before guests arrived because believe me, he got a ton of gifts! (spoiled boy). The banner is much bigger than it looks and was a huge element to the party.

Here are my lovely helpers ;] If you can see, I got 6 tables cloths, two of each (red, yellow, and black). They were guessed it, Dollar Tree! I placed the "Thank You" cards at each chair for the guests to look at and take with them afterwards. 

Here is the sign that was on the door to greet guests as they entered. Just something cute I made in photoshop and taped to the door. 

Here are the centerpieces. I took pictures while I made them. They are super cute, easy, and CHEAP! All you need is tissue paper, toilet paper, and ribbon. I also made the Mickey heads that went in them. I will have a post on the details soon. At each centerpiece was a couple of Mickey related toys. Some figures, some stuffed toys. Again, utilizing what we already had!

Here is the birthday boy chowing down. As he does at home, he really just took his time, soaked in the attention, and half of the food went in the trash. At least he looks cute doing it...

Here he is enjoying some cake...

Ugh...please ignore hubby and kid look cute though...
My hubby and I wore our shirts we got from Disney World. Liam's was custom ordered from this lovely shop. My Minnie Ears and his Mickey Ears (which served as his party hat) were from Disney World as well.

I, again this year, made a slideshow using Windows Movie Maker. Just pictures of him from this year, set to his favorite songs and songs that reminded us of him this year. It played on the TV behind us as background noise mostly throughout the party. 

So, here's a breakdown of the party.
Food & Cupcakes: $50
Rental Building: $100
Custom Shirt: $23
Printing of Decor, Invites, and Thank you Cards: $25
Party Supplies (Cups, plates, goodie bags etc): $30-40
around $230. 
Yes, that is still a bit high, but thats more than $100 less than I spent last year! That darn rental fee is what kills it! Don't you worry my frugal friends, next year, the party will be in our 1100 square foot home! ;]

So there you have hit! Having a hip DIY Mickey Party! Thanks for reading & feel free to share!

Liam's 1st Birthday Party

Monday, February 24, 2014

Planning for Walt Disney World

Ever since I took my trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, I have had endless messages, emails, and texts from facebook friends about helping them plan a trip to Disney. Let's be honest, aside from my son, husband, and Jesus; Disney is my favorite thing to talk about! But how do I describe all of that planning into a simple facebook message. For a Disney Fanatic like me, it is merely impossible! Then I thought, "Hey, I'll make a Disney blog!" Whoaa there barely update this blog...Good point inner self. Which brings me to this post. I am going to tell all my wonderful friends and readers my own personal way of planning for Disney. It may not be 100%, it may not be a professional way of trip planning, but I was planning a trip to Disney when I was pregnant with Peanut. & He was 13 months when I took him, so I've devoted many hours and years to research and planning.

This will be a five part series, so be sure to check back.

  1. Planning for Disney
  2. Ways to Save
  3. Packing for Disney
  4. Plan of Action
  5. Enjoy Disney

Let's start with the basics:

  1. Order a Disney World DVD
            Most people skip this step & I do not know why! It is a completely free disc that has loads of information and even provides you your own personal planning tool! I order a new one every year! Especially with the new fastpass+ (we'll get into that later), the magic bands (again later), and the new park additions at Magic Kingdom, I want to be filled in on everything! Plus I am hopefully heading back in 2015! Order it now! You can even order one for Disney Land, Disney Cruise, etc. All of them! FREE! I watch it sometimes when I just need my fill of the parks, and I remember enjoying the VHS back in '97! GO! Then, come back! There is tons more!

2. Visit Crowd Calendars
Let's be honest, this step can and will make or break a trip. Nothing worse than paying thousands of dollars on a dream vacation and then not being able to see and do things you really want to do. What's in your way? Crowds! I visit several different crowd calendars before deciding our dates, and although I didn't choose the cheap season with the lowest possible crowds (didn't work with our schedule), I did choose a regular season with low crowds. Guess what? Between fast pass, rider swap, and low crowds, we never waited more than 20 minutes for a single ride!! Do you know what that can do at a place like Disney? Aside from shows and extras, we almost rode every ride Disney World had to offer. I think we missed one or two from each park. 

My favorite crowd calendar is Dad's Crowd Calendar. That along with Touring Plans helped me decide on a specific time of year, week, and which parks to visit which days! Touring Plans does cost money. The best part? If you order this guide (or this one), you get a discount. To me, the book is worth it, along with the subscription. Why? You can either personalize your trip plans or have them personalized for you; you can view real wait times while in the park; and you can decide which park to visit each day. You can view the a month from now on their calendars, which gives you an idea of what it shows. It shows how low the crowds are and at which park, which day. Trust me, $12.95 is worth it to me to know exactly what you're doing in such a big place, a place you're spending tons of money on, and a place you have never been (or at least in a long time). Once you find when you want to go, I would get a subscription so you can see your trip dates to start planning your parks so you can do your fastpasses and dining reservations!

3. Pick Your Time
Now that you have your general idea of when to go, start doing your deep research. See what events go on during that time. Maybe you'd be interested in a different time. Want to experience Christmas at Disney? December and most of November is scary at WDW. The crowds are at max and you can barely move, let alone enjoy yourself. There are a couple of weeks in November where they have everything set up for Christmas without the crowds. Same goes for Halloween. Love food & wine? Who doesn't?? That's in the fall. Got a green thumb? The Flower and Garden Festival is in the Spring. (When we went!) Seriously, hang out on the disney website. You'll discover all sorts of things and it will really help you narrow down when you want to go. Also consider specials (#6 on this list).

At our resort, the newest value resort, Art of Animation

4. Decide on-property vs. off-property
I may be a bit biased when it comes to Disney, I'll admit, but I also LOVE saving money. So I will give you the good, bad, and ugly of this one.

Pros of staying on site:
Transportation to and from airport- FREE
Ability to add of meal plans (look for more info in # 9)
Free transportation to and from the parks (about 15 minute wait times)
Beautifully decorated rooms and friendly service
Disney Extra Fun; like hotel movie nights
Extra Magic Hours (The ability to visit a park early or stay at a park late)
Fridge in most rooms 

Cons of staying on site:
The extra cost for these amenities (this is only one, but it is a biggie!)

Pros of staying off-site:
May or may not save extra money on rooms
May be able to have fridge, microwave, etc.
Freedom to visit other parks like Universal, Sea World, etc.

Cons of staying off site:
May have to pay for transportation to the parks (or long wait times for free ones)
Provide own transportation to and from airport
No Extra magic hours
No Disney dining plan
May have to rent a car 

Okay, I know it looks pretty biased, but I promise, this is just from my experience! To me, when taking a vacation to Disney, I don't want to leave the magic behind when I leave the parks. Staying on site is such a blast from the moment you check in! Their rooms are decorated in Disney decor, the property, the pools, each hotel has a cafeteria or restaurant, gift shop, etc. It's like its own fun place to visit! Not to mention the friendliness of the staff and housekeeping. 

The only comparison I have is when we stayed off-property back in 1998, my first visit at age 7. I remember waiting for at least 30 minutes to an hour for our free transportation. To me that is a biggie. If you wait 1 hour everyday to leave and go back, that is 2 hours out of your schedule. That can cost cranky/bored kiddos, which makes for an even worse trip! Staying at a Disney resort, we never waited more than 15 minutes, even for the first morning bus, or the last evening bus! If you're taking young kids, I personally believe, staying on property is the best option.

Also, be sure to compare prices. Sometimes, during a certain time of year, or a certain promotion will feature the value resorts as low as $89 a night. Compare hotels, the cost of a rental car, food without the dining plan, and everything in between. Yes, a 4-year-old will be happy with any old pool, but remember, it is your vacation too. I love feeling like a doe-eyed child when I arrive at that Disney World sign!
Baby's first plane ride

5. Decide on Transportation
This is a big one. Taking an infant to Disney? Through most airlines, they fly free. This saved us a boat load when we took Peanut. We paid about $400 for a round trip to Florida for all three of us. Now that he will be 3 on our next visit? Almost $800! That is considered a deal also... Don't mind driving? Use this calculator. You put in the make, model, and year of your car and where you're going. It will show you how much gas you will use based on the current gas prices. A trip in my SUV will cost us around $400 there and back. That's half the price!! A trip to Orlando from Indianapolis is a little over 14 hours by car and 2 hours by plane. Decide which is more precious to you: money or time. If you can drive there through the night, without stopping at a hotel or by packing your own snacks and meals, driving is the way to go! You may have to take an extra vacation day, or leave a day sooner; but in the long run, you will save a great deal of money, and will not have to rent a car if you stay off property, or want to visit other parks, shopping, beach, etc. Let's also be honest, my 2-year-old would never sit on a 2 hour flight now, but he will sleep soundly in a car for 14 hours. Make your decision based on you, your comfort level, and your pocketbook. If you haven't guessed, we do plan on driving next time, even though I vowed not to ever drive to Florida after my first flight 3 years ago, but Disney is worth it to me, especially saving $400!

6. Look at Specials and History of Specials
This is important. Most people go on and put in info, plan a trip, pay a deposit, and get really happy. For us frugal folk, that is just stupid. Sorry, but it's true. They have no idea the amount they could save! Did you know Disney has a special offers page? It's true! It lists all of their current specials. The great part? The majority of these specials repeat the same time each year. Like free dining and 30% off resorts is featured 2-3 times a year. You can also talk to a travel agent that specializes in Disney World travels. They can let you know all current specials and which works best for your family. I particularly like this one. Like them on facebook, and see all the updated specials and offers year round! 

You can also google the history or these specials. When I went in May, it was regular season and there were no special offer for my dates. This year, for Disney credit or debit card members, you can get all sorts of goodies for the first week of May (when we went). The good news? If you already have a vacation booked and a special comes up for your trip, you can call and ask them to apply it to it! As long as it is eligible, I have never heard of anyone being turning down for them!

Mouse Savers has a great page on Historical Discounts. 

Even crying he is the cutest mouse ever

7. Put down Deposits
Now that you've picked your dates, transportation, and hotel, you can decide how many days you want to spend. I recommend doing all 4 parks for first time visitors, visiting one park each day. It gives you plenty of time to see and do most everything. I also go through the website once I have everything determined. There you will put down a $200, non-refundable deposit. If you pay off your whole trip and aren't able to go, you will get everything but the deposit back!

8. Look into Character Dining and Fastpass+
Now that you know when you're going, and which park you're going to which day, you can deceiver if you're going to do character dining. Reservations can be made up to 180 days before your trip and are strongly recommended! Some are in other resort hotels, some are in the parks. Some are more for older children, some are for younger kids. Our favorite for our little guy is the Play-N-Dine at Hollywood Studios. Here's a tip, make an early reservation, like 8am. Once you are done eating, you are already in the park and can make a quick escape to the longest wait line in HS, Toy Story Mania. Run out of time? Our reservation was at 8:15 and we still weren't finished by the 9am park open. Sorry, but when you have an endless buffet of Mickey waffles and get to hang out with Handy Manny, you'll understand. So, the Hubs ran and grabbed up some early fastpass tickets. Our wait time? 10 minutes. Ah, I love knowing all the secrets. 

With the new fastpass+ , I am not fully aware of how it works. I hope to be able to update this section soon. The old fastpass worked like this: You can get one fastpass at a time, per ticket holder. So, if Splash Mountain had an hour stand by time, you could get a fastpass, lets say the window was 10:30-11:30. You insert your ticket, and out comes your fastpass. You then have from 10:30-11:30 to enter the fastpass line for this ride. Most fastpass wait times are less than 20 minutes. That means you can enjoy other perks of the park rather than waiting in long lines. 

From my understanding, the new fastpass+ can be made up to 60 days in advance. It works on firework seats (which are sometimes reserved 2-3 hours before they start), and character meets, which we stood in line for 45 minutes for. (Probably the longest thing we waited on!) It also works for rides. Not all participate, but most of the popular ones. You can change them before their start time, so for the above example. If you reserve a fastpass for Splash Mountain for 10:30-11:30, and the stand by time is only 15 minutes, you can change your fastpass to something else up until 10:30. Make sense? Also, instead of having to carry around fastpass tickets, they are on your magic band. Which also has your park ticket, room key, dining plan, etc on it. Here is a video that may help explain it better.

9. Move onto Step 2: Saving at Disney
Let's hope this one doesn't take me as long as this post took to get up.

Planning Resources:

Questions, comments, additional info? I'd love to hear it! Comment below or shoot me an email!

Shared On:
LadyBug Blessings
Memories By the Mile
New Nostalgia

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thriving as a Mom & Student

Whooo Buddy! It sure has been awhile! Still adjusting to life with a crazy 18-month-old, over-worked husband, and being a SAHM/FT Student! Speaking of...I was using the bathroom at school yesterday (TMI anyone..?) and thought, hey, this is my first semester at school where I am doing surprisingly well! So my good people, here I am to share some tips about being a good mommy & student!

Yes, this is the Hubs & I at our Graduation in '11 (Associate's Degree)

1. Pick Your Classes Wisely
I am the spokesperson for taking on too big a course load. Before Peanut, I took 5, sometimes 6 classes every semester. At most universities, this is unheard of. In mine, it was a recommendation to complete the program in 2 years. Once I had a baby, 12 credit hours was a lot, let alone 15 or 18! So, although it is totally tempting to speed things up with an extra class or two, DON'T!!! Trust me. You will just get even more behind, which will take even longer. Also, be sure not to pick all difficult or AP classes. Pace yourself, I promise it helps!

2. Choosing a Schedule
I am beyond blessed and lucky to have a husband with a semi-flexible schedule, and a best friend willing to help! I chose a schedule where I only had classes 2 days a week. I am there from around 8:30 until 5:30. Yes, it is a long day, but that is 2 days of my week where I devote myself to school. I have about a 2 hour break where I work on all my homework. I haven't had to do homework at home yet, and believe me, I have had plenty to do. It keeps me organized and up on my game. Jess watches Liam on Monday & Hubs has the Wednesday shift. 2 days for child care is much more doable than 4 or 5!

3. On-Campus vs Off
I have been doing online school since I found out about Peanut. This is great for those working moms or ones who can't afford to go on campus. Be very careful though. Online does not mean easier, trust me! You have to devote yourself to the online work as you would on campus, maybe even more. If you must do online, try to limit yourself to 2 classes. If you must do full-time to get grants, financial aid, etc. then be very cautious of which to take. Anatomy & Physiology online suck, let alone, the same semester online (yes, I know from experience!) This is my first semester back on campus in 2 years and I am doing much better!

Yes this is my cute little family! ;)

4. Getting Involved
Keep your kids and spouse involved with your school. They can't mind read you have a huge exam coming up. Have them help you, or talk about it with them. My husband is much more involved than in the past. He asks (almost) every night if I have homework or anything to do in class. Not only is it sweet, it's a wonderful reminder!

5. Make Friends
Online school was awesome when I needed it, but I am a social butterfly! It's great being back in classes with people actually being there! & I have even made a couple of friends! =] No, they aren't mommies and they are a bit younger, but we still have several things in common, and it keeps me sane, which I desperately needed!

6. Homework Time
As I said in Point #2, I have a two hour break between my classes. I eat my lunch and then go to the library and do homework for the rest of the time! It keeps me up-to-date on assignments, or even ahead, and then I can enjoy my days off with my son without having to think about it! If you aren't able to get that, talk with your spouse about a special time-frame during the week for homework only! About 2-4 hours a week should be enough, minus big projects, exams, etc. Your spouse could take the kids to the park or go out for lunch. Anything where you can get peace & quiet! Have any hour-by-hour daycares or a Mom's Day Out program? They may cost money, but trust me, getting behind in school will affect you, your work, and your family in the long run! No one wants to play catch up all semester!

7. Pack Your Lunch
I wouldn't be 'Miss Frugal' if I didn't mention this one! I leave for school around 8 and don't end up eating lunch until about 1:30. I just take a plastic grocery bag (yay for reusing!), put an ice pack in it (homemade ice pack), and throw in a sandwich, some chips, and a can of pop, and I'm ready to roll! I also got $0.59 bottles of Powerade Zero this week as my morning class wake up until lunch! This is one thing I never did when I lived at home & went to school! All the money I could have saved! (*sigh*) I usually eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, or if I'm in a rush, I'll grab some poptarts for a mid-class snack!

8. Don't Procrastinate
As I said above, no one likes playing catch up! Stay on top of it! Just by staying on top of it, or a bit ahead, will help to decrease a ton of stress! Trust me, I have been through every situation with school, and this one is a biggie when it comes to affecting you & your family!!

8. Be Your Biggest Fan
You must have your family as cheerleaders to help you thrive in school, but give yourself some credit too! Not only are you achieving a dream for yourself, but you are overall wanting more for your family, and that is something to be pretty darn proud of! The better you feel, the better you do, and the faster you buzz through school!

It only took me over 2 years to figure these out, and I hope I can help a mommy/student thrive the way I have wanted to! It feels so good to finally be there! Happy day Frugal Friends!

Link Ups:
Clean & Scentsible
Whimsy Wednesdays
Memories By the Mile
New Nostalgia
Kathe with an E
Ladybug Blessings
Kitchen Meets Girl
Ginger Snap Crafts
Handy Man Crafty Woman
The DIY Dreamer

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